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I volunteer as a reader and to homebound patients through my church. I've recently encountered a few situations that I don't know how to handle. A couple of patients have lashed out at me and I don't know how to attempt to make them feel better. I realize this is a next to impossible task, but one of my responsibilities as a volunteer is to listed and offer support. My boss at the organization asked me to come up with a list of possible solutions. The first five are on the silly end, while the second five are more serious. I could really use your help as I'm not an expert in this profession. Can anyone take a look if you get a chance? I'd be so grateful!
What to do with a cranky patient:

A cranky patient can make your day very hard. If your patient is in a bad mood, try to make them feel good. Using humor might do the trick! Here are some ideas in case you need a little inspiration:

1) Dance! Dance! Dance!

Don't be afraid to let loose! Your patient might appreciate your best Electric Slide or The Hustle!

2) Tell a joke or a funny story.

Laughter is the best medicine!

3) Make them feel special!

Draw a silly portrait of them!

4) Sing one of your favorite happy songs.

Don't worry if you aren't the best singer! Music is known to bring joy!

5) Give them a treat!

Everyone needs a little reward once in a while. Why not give your patient some ice cream or a cookie? Think of their favorite dessert!

Humor can be an excellent way to cheer your patient up, but it's also important to take a serious approach.

1) Be understanding!

Everyone has bad days. Don't let your patient's mood change yours! Stay positive! They count on you!

2) Be supportive!

Tell them that you understand. Ask them to talk to you about what they're feeling and LISTEN!

3) Be kind!

A little kindness goes a long way! Put yourself in their shoes! Remind them that you care about them.

4) Be patient!

Don't lose your temper! If your patient is upset, silently count to ten before you respond. Stay calm.

5) Be respectful!

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Speak softly to them. Be gentle. Be encouraging.
Your patients will struggle from time to time. They need you to stay strong! You can help them just by being there for them.

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Continuing, 6) Always stay within the scope of your role, the task assigned. Volunteering is not a profession, and it would not be your role to "manage a patient". This may take an attitude adjustment on your part. 7) Since you are already enthusiastic (got that part covered), try not to overstep by being silly.
I want to encourage you to keep trying, and thank you for your heart for service to seniors. And finally, avoid all possibilities of your behavior that would cause those seniors to call you a young whippersnapper. Humor is a good thing.
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Volunteering can be great. Here are a few precautions:
1) Would you pet a cat if it was going to scratch you? Or approach a dog, if it was growling and about to bite? In the same manner, try not to be intrusive into the space of a patient suffering fom perhaps acute anxiety (Sundowner's) in the late afternoon or early evening. 2) Try not to over stimulate the person by going from being isolated to dancing. 3) Always ask permission: Introduce yourself, say "would you like for me to read to you?" 4) If a young, spry, happy stranger drew a silly picture of me, I would lash out too. You correctly stated to be respectful, consider the huge difference between you and say, for example, a wheelchair bound or bedridden patient. 5) Learn the correct distance between you and the personal space of the patient. (18 inches, 36 inches?) Asking permission, "May I sit here?", sit calmly at their level, not towering above or over them.
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I would try to find a way to communicate with seniors who have poor hearing. I have found that poor hearing limits my ability to communicate with quite a few seniors. I end up yelling and they still don't understand me. What is the answer? I don't know. Maybe someone here has some ideas. I have read that hearing aids don't work well and most seniors I know don't have them anyway.

What about writing things on a tablet? That takes time, but I guess it's worth a try.
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Lots of questions and suggestions - I admire your willingness and compassion in undertaking this volunteer position. I also respect your sincerity in wanting to provide the best care possible.

These are just my personal thoughts. not necessarily corresponding to your order because some of them are really good and don't need any comments.

1. Some people are just going to be cranky, sullen, and/or miserable. It might be their nature and there might not be any way you can bring them out of it.

2. Old people in my experience like to reminisce and talk about their accomplishments when life was better. You could try to start that by asking them what they enjoyed doing the most, what was it about that activity, etc. Sometimes they'll just take over and begin talking.

3. They're often lonely and just want someone to feel sorry for them or show some interest.

4. Music and art are great therapy; if it's feasible, bring a portable CD player or iPod loaded with their favorite music. It might be possible in whatever intake forms are prepared to determine their musical preferences.

The RLTV programs frequently have episodes on working with elderly and those who have dementia. There's one particularly good program demonstrating the application of free style art. Participants are given the materials, objects to copy, or they can just draw whatever comes to mind.

There are some free form art techniques called ZenDoodles and ZenTangles in which participants draw free style lines, circles, geometric figures...whatever. They just let their imagination guide them. This might be appropriate because it's said to be calming, but it's not like fine or classic art in which they have to worry about techniques, depth perception, etc.

5. Hearing and vision problems may limit their response to you; if there's an intake form, that information would help you beforehand. If someone has a hearing deficit, try to find out which side might be less impaired. If low vision is an issue, you could bring magnifying glasses. But either or both of these can severely limit their participation and response.

6. Photos of animals, babies and soothing country scenes seem to be relaxing. Perhaps you could bring a magazine such as Country or Country Extra and go through it with them, reading some of the jokes or humorous anecdotes.

My father enjoys Reminisce and Reminisce Extra magazines which include photos and stores of the Depression and WWII Eras. Crossword puzzles sometimes also are based on activities, people, movies, etc. of those eras. These can be conversation starters, including such topics as their military service (but don't push if anyone is reluctant to discuss it), favorite songs, movies, where they grew up, family, siblings, etc.

7. Ask if they have any family albums they'd like to share.

8. Ask about their families and their pets.

9. Be cautious with high sugar foods unless you know for certain they're not diabetic and/or are eating properly. Older folks often tend not to have good nourishing diets and sugary foods can give them energy spikes then energy plunges.


You're really on the right track though; you've already got a lot of good suggestions, and I wish you well. The last 5 are especially insightful.

It would be helpful as well if you come back and share your own thought on what works and what hasn't.

Good luck on this very worthwhile and admirable venture!
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These are great suggestions! I applaud your kindness and desire to help others. I wish you all the best.

I would be a little cautious with the dance. I'm not sure if that is for you or the senior. lol In case it's for them, I would just keep in mind that they may have balance and strength issues and should be fully supported if they try to dance. Some are fall risk that shouldn't be up and about dancing. But, they can dance while in their chair, right?

I might be sensitive of drawing a funny picture of them. They may get their feelings hurt. Just be sensitive.

They are really lucky to have you in their lives!
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Also, ask them about themselves. This is often a good distraction from their unhappiness, and people like to talk about themselves and know you are interested in the person they are or were.
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